Who could have guessed, even as recently as a couple weeks ago, there was an actual character stealthily concealed behind Brett Dalton’s crust-less Wonderbread performance as Ward? The end of last week’s episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave us Garrett (Bill Paxton, continuing to enliven any scene where he’s in frame. What a pity he was absent tonight) directing Ward to James Bond himself up to an unwitting Skye (is there any other kind?) and ferret out the S.H.I.E.L.D. data files Coulson ordered encrypted. Okay, Brett: I admit, I underestimated you. Now, give us the Full Connery (or Roger Moore, for you completely wrong-headed people).
Well, we’ll never know. That duplicitous “lone wolf” Agent really does have “adowabull puppy wuv” for Skye. In fact, it allowed him to bluff his way through Agent Koenig’s Supah Lie-Detector/Voight-Kampff test. (Ask an even-nerdier friend.) I still doubt the results are admissible in court, but it did give Patton Oswalt’s Koenig an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s all cold-blooded business when he needs to be. (We’ll get back to him.)
Like I’d mentioned several weeks ago, Agents could have been establishing their characters and occupying its niche within the Marvel U to help bait and hook the audience into the space they’d staked out. “The Only Light in the Darkness,” like “Yes Men,” managed this, but not as well as the latter. Though the incorporation of Marcus Daniels, A.K.A. Blackout, was a welcome tip o’ the hat to us comic geeks, it didn’t exactly elevate the tension level of tonight’s story. Poor Blackout was relegated to the B-plot, which amounted only to opening Coulson’s eyes to the fact he’s been hilariously and stupidly unfair to Agent May. Basically, this was not a week to deploy a Marvel supervillain, and… I kind of can’t believe I just wrote that. But hear me out. Or read me out. You know what I mean, damn it!
“Only Light” is a perfect example of an interstitial episode: The entire purpose of it was clearly in setting up the main overarching story drama of Ward and Skye’s romantic tension representing the larger universe’s stakes. (Think Buffy/Angel here, only far less interesting.) Blackout has a pretty kickass power and background, which—to the writers’ credit, they address in as comic book-y a fashion as the comic books do—but all he’s there to do is stalk Coulson’s ex, Audrey (Whedon’s Angel mainstay, Amy Acker), the oft-mentioned cellist from his pre-Tahiti past. Coulson feels he has to keep his Cyrano de Bergerac routine of deflecting menace going in order to keep her feeling safe. This is a terrible lesson to impart, but it’s the only thing that makes him realize he’s slapped a big red “A” on Agent May. You’re an asshole, Phil. You not only are infantilizing your ex-girlfriend, you just now started realizing you’ve been taking your best agent for granted. No wonder she’s waving her middle finger at you as she calls it quits.
It’s understood that Ward needs to continue to exhibit how dangerous he is, especially since you let Skye in on his li’l secret. Now she’s going to have to triple agent (not to be confused with Agent Triplett) the double agent. Oh, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunners? Killing off Patton Oswalt after one episode?. I realize he’s a busy man these days, but shame on you. Including that hilarious uber-nerd in the show was inspired. Killing him off this quickly to give Skye more lens time is enough to drop you a half-grade.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.